Kosanji Temple 耕三寺
The entrance to Kosanji
Koyomon gate, inspired by Yomeimon gate at Nikko Toshogu shrine
The pagoda at Kosanji
The marble garden, opened in 2000
The love of a son
When it comes to gifts for their mothers, some children might give flowers, take her out for dinner, or even write a poem. The businessman Kanemoto Kosanji, opted for a more unconventional present; a gift reflecting his gratitude to his mother, but also his means!
A limitless devotion
Kosanji is a huge temple complex of the Jodo Shinshu Honganji sect, the Pure Land Buddhist School located on Ikuchijima Island, about 18km from Onomichi in Hiroshima Prefecture.
- To read: Onomichi Port
The four storey Kosanji covers a vast area of 55,000m², and it's the work of wealthy businessman, Kanemoto Kosanji (1891-1970). Following the death of his mother in 1934, the industrialist, who was then running a steel tube manufacturing company in Osaka, made a decision; to build a temple in honor of his mother. He felt it was important for him to offer this ultimate gift as gratitude for the love and dedication she showed throughout her life.
Far from being content with a single temple, he built a complex of twenty buildings. A huge undertaking that lasted 30 years!
In 1927, he had already built a beautiful residence for himself: Choseikaku Villa, today located in the walls of the Kosanji complex. It's a subtle mix of Japanese and Western architecture, featuring all the latest technological innovations of the time in terms of comfort.
Kanemoto Kosanji also took care of the quality of the materials used and the decoration in every detail, involving renowned artists for the paintings of the sliding doors and the multiple works of art present in the house.
A man inspired
A year after the death of his mother, Kosanji changed radically. The businessman became a Buddhist monk and took the name Koso Kosanji.
For several decades, he focused all his energy on building Kosanji, the design of which was inspired by his mother's favorite temples, including some famous National Treasures.
It's no wonder then that during your visit some elements might remind you of other famous places in Japan, such as the imperial palace in Kyoto, Shitenno-ji in Osaka, and Horyu-ji in Nara... any resemblance to existing buildings was a conscious decision!
Kosanji drew inspiration from many buildings of different styles and periods, from the Asuka Period (538-719) to the Edo Period (1603-1868).
In the upper level, Koyomon Gate was inspired by Yomeimon Gate at Nikko Toshogu Shrine, dating back to 1636 and classified as a national treasure in 1902. Located behind the five-storey pagoda of Kosanji, Koyomon is particularly ostentatious - that gate alone required ten years of work. The hondo or main hall is a replica of Phoenix Hall seen at Byodo-in in Uji.
The "Kosanji style"
Nevertheless, it's important to make something clear: Koso Kosanji didn't just make identical copies of doors, pagodas, halls or sculptures. The inspiration is certainly there, but the monk was keen to bring his own personal touch, sometimes giving free rein to his imagination and making various changes.
Some sculptures are much larger, the buildings are much more colorful and the gilding more ornate. Some buildings are completely original constructions, like the Rakan-do at the lower level. Kosanji isn't somewhere to go if you just want to admire some of the greatest architectural treasures of Japan all in one place.
As proof of this, 15 of the buildings are classified as Important Cultural Properties at the national level; clear recognition of the "Kosanji style".
A museum and a marble garden
Koso Kosanji was also a great collector of classical Japanese art. With more than 2,000 works and objects of art, 19 of which are classified as Cultural Properties of the country, its collection has been on display since 1955 in the Kosanji Museum, which is housed in three of the temple halls.
At the very last level of Kosanji, a last surprise awaits the visitor: the Miraishin no Oka, or Hill of Hope. Perched at the top of the hill, this garden entirely made of Carrara marble was carved by Itto Kuetani. This environmental sculptor, originally from Kozan in Hiroshima prefecture, worked between 1988 and 2000 on this monumental work; that's 16 years of hard work to create these stone blocks in an immaculate white garden.
In the garden, the carved monuments such as "The Tower of Hope" or the "Celestial Cat" harmonize perfectly with the surrounding nature. It's a sublime contemporary creation at the height of this physical representation of filial love.
The Hill of Hope
View from the summit of Kosanji